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Watch Bat Conservationist Kristen Lear Work to Help Bats

A huge part of what I do as a bat conservationist is sharing the world of bats with others! 

I fell in love with bats while on night hikes during summer camp and got my first taste of bat conservation in 6th grade when I built and put up bat houses for my Girl Scout Silver Award project. Now I get to spend my life learning about bats around the world and how to protect them!

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Sitting among 15 MILLION Mexican free-tailed bats coming out of Bracken Cave in Texas. Bracken Cave is home to the largest colony of mammals in the entire world! As a bat conservationist, I get to study and protect bats like these!

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Building bat houses when I was 12 with the help of my dad! I was really nervous using power tools for the first time, but was excited to do something to help bats. I built four bat houses and put them up in a local park in my hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio.

I studied zoology in college, where I learned how to catch and study bats. I worked as a field assistant in Texas studying how bats control pest insects in pecan orchards, and also did my own Honors project testing which bat house design different bat species liked.

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Standing with one of the 18 bat houses I built during my senior year of college. This is a special type of bat house called a rocket box. I also built standard houses to see which ones the bats liked best. They ended up liking both types!

After college, I earned a Fulbright Scholarship to live in Australia for a year studying a critically endangered bat species. I got to use really cool thermal imaging camera technology based off of missile tracking technology to count the 40,000 bats that lived in the cave I was studying.

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Getting to hold a bat for the first time in college was really exciting! I learned how to catch and handle bats safely and to take body measurements like weight and size and to identify the species. With this information we can learn about how their populations are doing. This is an Eastern red bat in Texas. We let the bats go once we’re done measuring them.

I lead lots of bat events for the public, including evening bat walks using acoustic detectors to listen for the bats’ echolocation calls. I also lead local bat conservation projects like the Athens Bat Connection and Bulldogs for Bats projects where I live in Athens, Georgia, and help schools, Scout groups, and others build their own bat houses!

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Part of my work in South Australia involved crawling deep into caves to find where the bats were roosting. This little bat is a critically endangered Southern bent-wing bat. There are only two caves in the world where the moms of this species give birth to their pups, and I was studying one of those caves.

I am now finishing my PhD in Integrative Conservation at the University of Georgia, where for the past six years I have been studying endangered pollinating bats in Mexico and how to protect them. I use infrared cameras to observe the bats feeding on agave plants at night to figure out how we can plant agaves to feed the bats. I also work with local Mexican
communities so that we can protect the bats together!

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A colony of Evening bats roosting in some of the bat houses I built! Bats like these eat lots of insects in a night, so they help keep populations of pest insects (like mosquitoes and agricultural pests) under control. Did you know that some bats can eat up to their body weight in insects in one night?!

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A threatened Mexican long tongued bat (left) and endangered Mexican long-nosed bat (right). These bats rely on the nectar of agave plants for food. For my PhD, I’m studying the bats’ foraging behavior and working with Mexican agave harvesters to plant more agaves to feed these bats.

As a woman in STEM, I’m passionate about inspiring girls to pursue science careers like
 I did. I’m currently a National Geographic Explorer and AAAS IF/THEN Ambassador and have had the opportunity to present on the National Geographic stage and appear on national TV on CBS’s Mission Unstoppable series about women in diverse STEM fields! Check out my Instagram (batsforlife_kristen) and Twitter (BatsForLife) for some batty fun!

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Giving a talk about my research on the National Geographic stage in Washington, D.C.! I only had 60 seconds for my “lightning talk” so I had to spend LOTS of time practicing to make sure I didn’t go over time!

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One way I love to share my passion for bats is through fashion! I wear LOTS of bat clothes and even design my own bat clothing, like this shirt!

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I love working with kids to inspire the next generation of scientists! There is still a lot we don’t know about bats around the world, so we need more passionate people to study them! One way I love to share my passion for bats is through fashion! I wear LOTS of bat clothes and even design my own bat clothing, like this shirt!

Word Of Advice: It is NEVER too early to get started! No matter what your interest is, start learning as much as you can about it. You never know where your passion may lead!

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